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216 paid, by the satisfaction he felt in serving the worthy merchant, and he would not therefore accept of any remuneration ; but, on being strongly urged, a waggish thought entered the mind of the pretended Doetor, who requested a ring from Bassanio's finger! This ring was the gift of Portia, previous to the marriage ceremony ; and Bassanio had sworn, that he would keep it to the hour of his death. He was therefore much perplexed on the Doctor's urgent de- I wile lo possess this pledge of his faith and constancy. He advanced various excuses ; and offered to purchase for him the dearest ring in Venice and find it out by proclamation ; but the Doctor would admit no excuse, and highly offended left them. Much distressed at this displeasure, of one to whose skill they owed such obligations, Bassanio was prevailed upon, at the earnest importunity of Antonio'to give up the ring; and Gratiano was dispatched with it to the Doctor.
Nerissa, following the example of her mistress, resolved to try her skill in obtaining from Gratiano, a ring which she had also given to him ; and requested therefore some service at his hands, which he most readily undertook to perform, when, after much persuasion and entreaty, she succeeded likewise in getting her ring from him : then pleased with their own dexterity in securing possession of these two hoops of gold, which had been received with so many oaths, and parted from with so much reluctance, they threw off their disguise, and merrily proceeded on their way homeward.
It was a lovely night, the moon rode in majestic splendour, through an unclouded sky, when Portia and Nerissa arrived at Belmont, and found Lorenzo and Jessica, seated at the foot of a tree enjoying the sweet serenity of the scene. They had not been long arrived when the sound of a trumpet announced the
approach of the Lord Bassanio ; who, with An
tonio, was most cordially welcomed to Belmont by the Lady Portia.
Nerissa and Gratiano were soon apparently involved in a quarrel; and when Portia inquired the cause, Nerissa poutingly declared her husband was faithless, for he had given away the ring she gave him before they parted, and which he had sworn to keep for ever. Gratiano made many excuses ; but Portia gravely told him, there could be no excuse for so palpable a breach of faith-and poor Bassanio bewildered, knew now not what he should do, or what excuse advance for the loss of his own ring, which Portia, at first, appeared not to suspect, holding him up to Gratiano as an example which he ought to have copied ; slily stating her belief that Bassanio would sooner part with life than with such a pledge of mutual affection and confidence !
Portia then appealed to Bassanio to justify her faith by the production of the ring which she had bestowed on him at parting ; but when she found, or rather appeared to find that it was also gone, she seemed highly offended; and the two bridegrooms were soundly rated by their new made wives, for what they termed their infidelity. After teasing them for awhile, they at length laughingly acknowledged the cheat, and enhanced the joy of Antonio and Bassanio, by discovering that the skilful Doctor of Laws was the sweet Portia herself-whose ready wit had been the means of preserving Antonio's life, when probably every effort of law or authority would have failed in so doing.
Nothing now occurred to interrupt the mutual happiness of all parties, save that the gentle Jessica, though she had been tempted by love to forsake her father, yet was deeply afflicted when she heard of his death. Time, however, blunted the poignancy of her grief, and her future life was comfortable, though probably not happy ; for the painful remembrance of her disobedience could nere entirely be obliterated from her heart.
For there are stings which never quit the mind;
The secret memory of deeds o'erpast,
to recall our deed,
And save us from the pain of retrospection!
her hife with Bassanio was one continued scene of hap
piness; and their milder joys were enlivened by the wit, vivacity, and perpetual good humour of Nerissa, and her madcap husband, Gratiano, who seemed as he were born for mirth alone, and that sorrow, or sadness had disclaimed him at his birth.
Antonio's misfortunes were only transient. Three of his argosies, richly 'laden, came unexpectedly into port, and all his previous losses were redeemed. Bassanio discharged every debt with large interest, suited to the circumstances of his creditors, and the extent of their kindness towards himself. The fame of his honour and integrity spread over the land, nor less the fame of Antonio's friendship. Their virtues were not merely nominal, they were solid and unchangeable ; and when for ages after any one spoke of friendship—that of the merchant Antonio, for his kinsman the Lord Bassanio, was recorded as a precedent for all others.
Friendship-fair virtue's favoured child and hope,
To break one single tie, disjoins the rest ;